Community supports University employees displaced by house fire


Elizabeth Worthington, Assistant News Editor

Carl Leamons and family members Charles, Abby, and Ally Derr, who all work for the University’s dining facilities, lost their home in a fire on March 26, the Saturday of Easter weekend. The house was a duplex, with the Leamons/Derr family on one side and the Miller family on the other. Associate Professor of English Alf Siewers, neighbor of the Millers, started an online GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. As of April 14, almost $13,000 had been donated.

Leamons has been an employee at the University since 2005 and currently works in the Bostwick Marketplace. His three children are all recently out of high school and have been employed since 2014; Charles works in the Bison and Abby and Ally both work in Bostwick with Leamons.

John Cummins, General Manager of Residential Dining for Parkhurst Dining Services at the University, noted the generous response of faculty, staff, and students in their collaborative efforts to provide aid to the family.

“The community really gave dramatically. These horrific situations are just the strongest opportunities in a community like [the University] to actually see how it comes together. Not everybody even knew any of these people and the reality was that you’re an extremely altruistic group of students. I see this all the time in students that I deal with, how empathetic and willing they are to give and this is the most public example of this that fills me up with pride for the community I live in,” Cummins said.

“Donations, food, furniture, and monetary [aid] have been so great in helping us rebuild. Everything we received has been useful and we are ever so grateful,” Katrina Leamons said on behalf of the family.

The Dining Services employees donated the leftover money from the 50/50 raffle drawing they traditionally hold at their holiday parties throughout the year. Cummins brought this initial donation along with food and basic toiletries collected from the Bison to the family soon after the fire. The family was able to reside in the home of Leamons’ eldest daughter until they were able to find a permanent residence last week.

On March 28, the Dining Services employees placed signs and collection boxes at the cash registers throughout campus asking for donations. They also participated in dress down days throughout the week, in which they had to donate $5 in order to dress down. Cummins was able to give Leamons $1,285 by April 1. By the end of the week, the University’s district manager Dave Freeland reached out to the father company of Parkhurst Dining Services, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, and petitioned the manager for a match of the $1,500 already raised by the team members. With an additional donation from the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and the $1,500 match from Eat’n Park, the family was given almost $3,000 in a mere two weeks after the fire.

The women of Alpha Delta Pi also donated a couch from their suite on Hunt Hall to the family.

“Following our chapter’s collection, some officers realized that our couch could also be put to better use. I contacted the family through dining services and by the end of the week our couch had a new home,” Ellen Higbee ’17 said.

Thank you is just not enough to express how we really feel. Family, friends, [the] Red Cross, First Baptist Church, [the University], and people we don’t even know have been so generous and helpful,” Leamons said.

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